Vol. 5 Num 842 Sun. October 08, 2006  
Front Page

Nothing impossible in Biman purchase
From banana to spare parts, everything is bought at higher prices

One dozen of banana may cost Tk 40 in local markets, but if it is bought for Biman, the price is shown Tk 140. Spare parts were bought for two ATP aircraft when they were grounded for sale. Huge money is drawn in the name of repairing engines without repairing those at all.

These are only a few ways to make brisk money by some unscrupulous officials of Biman Bangladesh Airlines allegedly enjoying high-level government backing.

Mindless corruption and inefficiencies in the management have thus put Biman in a bad shape over the years with huge losses.

"The price of an elevator slew switch used for the flight control system was showed in the bill $7,500 although its market price was only $235," Khurshid Alam Khan, a senior flight engineer of Biman, told The Daily Star.

"Such purchase is very common in Biman and some of its officials are involved in the corruption with support from government high-ups," he said.

Citing another example of corruption, another Biman official said, "An amount of $56,000 has been showed as the repair charge of an Inertial Navigation System [INS] whereas it is possible to buy a new system for $12,000-15,000 only." The repaired INS went out of order just a day after being installed, he added.

Biman Managing Director MA Momen admitted that there is corruption in Biman. He claimed that he is trying to reduce it.

"I agree that there is corruption in Biman and it is largely in the store, purchase, marketing and sales departments," Momen told The Daily Star, adding that he found a purchase department bill of $650 while that particular purchase really costs only $150.

Another Biman source pointed to the wrong policies of the airlines' top management in operating domestic flights.

Flights on routes like Dhaka-Barisal and Dhaka-Syedpur are being operated only for political considerations, he said, adding, "Government high-ups including ministers forced the Biman to continue these flights despite huge losses per trip."

A Biman pilot told The Daily Star on condition of anonymity, "I never saw more than 10 passengers on a Barisal-Dhaka flight. I have even flown to Dhaka with only one passenger against the plane's total capacity of 85."

Describing his bitter experience, the pilot said, "I once made a suggestion to one of my bosses to stop the route, but the official rebuked me saying it was not my headache.

"I was threatened with losing my job if I make suggestions like this in future," he said.

As per Biman estimation, every domestic trip costs Tk 5 lakh on an average while it earns only Tk 1.7 lakh even if the flight is fully loaded.

"This is because of Biman's wrong policy. For the domestic flights, Biman involves big aircraft like Airbus and DC-10 instead of the small ones," a Biman official said. "This is not possible to make these routes profitable with the existing policy," he added.

"Every professional airline has a master plan for at least five years," said SM Nasimul Haque, former president of Bangladesh Airline Pilots' Association (BAPA). "But we [Biman] do not have any plan at all. What the [aviation] minister says on the day is our plan," he said.

Sitting BAPA President SM Helal said leasing aircraft for the Biman fleet is another wrong policy of the Biman management as it is possible to buy a new aircraft with the huge amount spent for leasing an aircraft for five years.

Biman goes for leases instead of buying new aircraft because some unscrupulous officials and top ruling party men want to make brisk money by taking commissions, BAPA leaders said.

Leaders of Flight Engineers and Navigators Association (FENA) said seven engines of Biman aircraft failed in the last eight months and there is no parallel of this rate of engine failure in the aviation history of any country.

"Engine failure means ways to make money. Biman history says some officials even drew money for repairing an engine abroad without sending the engine for repairing at all," said a FENA leader.

"Only papers showed that the engine was repaired abroad. However, when the engine was installed on the aircraft it was found out of order and the engine was sent for repairing abroad again--this time genuinely," he said.

The leader said an Airbus 310-300 aircraft has been bought for Biman at a cost of $75 million while the Emirates and Kuwait Airlines bought the same aircraft at the cost of $49 million and $43million.

"Another $25 million has been spent to customise the aircraft," he said.

"Biman is inching towards death," said SM Helal, also convener of the Biman Sammilito Sangram Parishad, demanding for a Biman management free from corruption.